Illustration by: Maddie Bataille | Photo Editor

This week from the Senate floor: discussions about accessibility, new student organizations and a push for vending machines in Brookside Hall.

To begin, Director of Disability, Access, and Inclusion (DAI) Paige Ramsdell took the floor. Ramsdell has worked in the DAI office for 11 years, and has been its director since 2018. This year, the office has been fully staffed for the first time since she took over as director. 

The program was recently renamed from “Disability Services” to “Disability, Access, and Inclusion” to better reflect the office’s goal of working with and for students rather than providing them with a service. 

Ramsdell continued by highlighting the office’s values. She focused on disability justice, pointing out that a disability is one of many identities that needs to be addressed. She also said that the school must account for accessibility by design, rather than retrofitting accessibility features into previous designs.

The office of DAI has seen a large increase in students accounted for and students with accommodations. According to Ramsdell, 35 percent of students have a primary diagnosis related to mental health, and she has noted a 71 percent increase in students with accomodations since she started in the office. Additionally, her office has seen more first-year students in consultations since the beginning of this academic year than the entirety of the previous year. 

Ramsdell made sure to remind everyone that all students who have previously received accommodations, whether they still use them or not, can always reapply for accommodations without issue.

The senators had high praise for the DAI office, with many having positive interactions in the past.

“Your office houses some of the best people at this University, and there’s never been a doubt in my mind that you are committed to the students here,” Speaker Chris Bove said.

Following Ramsdell, the director of entrepreneurship and innovation, Keith Ranaldi, took the floor to highlight the labs within the library. The labs range from a recording studio, to a virtual reality space, to the launch lab, a space to begin and work on entrepreneurial endeavors. 

In relation, he promoted a “networking and innovation showcase” on Oct. 27 in collaboration with Technische Universität Braunschweig, the oldest technical university in Germany.

He also highlighted the course he teaches, INE 249: Business of Innovation: Lean Startup. The course runs every semester and has been approved to run during J-Term, as well.

Following Ranaldi, the Senate committees addressed regular business. The External Affairs Committee is still looking for a response from Narragansett’s Town Council in regards to a town hall meeting on campus. As a whole, the Student Senate wants to remind the student body that they are working hard on resolving issues related to Narragansett’s ordinance.

The Campus Affairs Committee is still working on resolving Union Express issues and they are still pushing for the installation of multiple Amazon Hubs around campus.

Following the committees’ reports, the Senate announced that the College of Business is taking professional photos for students to use for LinkedIn profiles and other professional purposes on Friday, Oct. 14.

Additionally, on Monday, Oct. 17, the University of Rhode Island is hosting a debate between the candidates for the Congressional Second District seat, currently held by Jim Langevin. The debate, between Republican Allan Fung and Democrat Seth Magaziner, will be in Edwards Auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

To wrap up, three bills passed the Senate floor unanimously. The first two acknowledged new student-run organizations, the “URI Student Speech Language Hearing Association” and the “South Asian Student Association.” The “URISSLHA” aims to promote the field of audiology and speech-language pathology and draw together students and faculty from the department of communicative disorders. The “South Asian Student Association” aims to serve as a space for students with South Asian heritage or those interested in the culture and history to connect and gather.

Finally, Senate passed a bill to push for the addition of vending machines in Brookside, and will approach Housing and Residential Life in an effort to provide the dorm with at least two machines, one for food and one for drinks.

The Student Senate will next meet on Wednesday, Oct. 19.